For Love of Country

By Robin Waldman

saved used fats

As the US involvement in World War II heightened, the nation faced many critical shortages. Certainly sugar and butter come to mind, as do images of children collecting bottle caps and pieces of glass. But “Mrs. Housewife” was called to her patriotic duty to conserve another good: household fats. The Conservation Division of the War Production Board and the country’s soap and glycerin producers turned to the War Advertising Council for help in educating the public to save their used kitchen fats. And thus was born the elegantly named Fat Salvage Campaign, run under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture and the American Fat Salvage Committee.

Households were encouraged to return their collected kitchen fats to their butchers. In return, they received meager cash payments and extra ration points. Butchers then aggregated the fat salvage and turned it over to the government, who dispersed it to munitions and other manufacturers. Between August 1942 and July 1945, the Fat Salvage Campaign recovered 537 million pounds of household fats.

As in peacetime, these fats were used to manufacture food, paints, textiles and soap. With the war’s demands, fats were also now necessary as glycerine for the production of explosives and medicines; as soap for synthetic rubber and military aid; and for the production of additional paints, varnishes and greases necessary to the manufacture of military equipment.

“No matter what you do, nothing can alter the fact that we of this [American Fat Salvage] Committee and the men of the Government Agencies that sponsor us are, and will continue to be, eternally grateful to you for all that you have done to make household fat salvage a real, outstanding contribution to the war effort.”

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, dear readers. Enjoy your burgers, and then after you extinguish your grill, consider carefully the humble drip pan.

The images and quotation in this post are from Records Relating to the Fat Salvage Program, 1943-1945, (NAID 2788571), and further information on the topic of fat salvage during World War II is available throughout our holdings.

5 thoughts on “For Love of Country

  1. My great-grandfather Albert Norton and his brothers owned Norton & Co., which was a rendering plant in DC and, in 1942, moved to Old Town Alexandria (about where Oronoco Bay Park is now). The operation of the plant made a big stink which can only be imagined during the summer months. When he’d go into Burke and Herbert Bank, the banker would always say “What’s that smell?” And Albert would say “That’s the smell of money !”.

  2. I guess today we are using recycled kitchen fats to run cars!
    Love the posters- thanks!

  3. Great post! And, I desperately want the “Save Used Fats” image on a tee-shirt!

  4. I remember my mother collecting used fats and we would walk the few blocks to the butcher shop to turn it in. In return we got red or green cardboard tokens which where ration points.

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